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First look: Ford’s next-gen Courier breaks cover

Mini-truck: All-new Courier takes on an F-Series look and new diesels.

The Blue Oval unveils an all-new Courier utility ahead of its Bangkok show debut

13 Mar 2006

FORD has revealed a redesigned Courier utility on the eve of its global debut at next Wednesday’s Bangkok International Motor Show opening.

Bigger, more aggressive and featuring two new common-rail four-cylinder turbo-diesel engines, the Blue Oval’s crucial new light commercial contender goes on sale in Australia late this year.

The reveal of Ford’s all-new Courier – revealed last Tuesday in both single-cab and extra-cab 4x4 guises, the latter complete with reverse-opening rear doors - completes the new-generation model cycle for all of Australia’s Thailand-built pickups.

Holden was the first to release its big, bold new RA Rodeo (in March 2003) and in January launched an Alloytec V6-powered version, while Toyota followed with an even more brazen seventh-generation HiLux in April 2005.

Nissan’s Spanish-built D40 dual-cab Navara is the sole exception to Australia's Thai-built LCVs and was launched here in November 2005 (and continues to be sold alongside its D22 predecessor), while Mitsubishi’s all-new Triton dual-cab has also broken cover and will arrive here mid-year with 3.2-litre diesel and 3.5-litre petrol power.

Ford-controlled Mazda also revealed its next-generation, Ranger-based B-Series LCV last week (see separate story).

Ford’s new Ranger, as it’s known in Thailand and the US, closely follows the design theme laid down by the Blue Oval’s 4-Trac concept revealed at December’s Thailand International Motor Expo.

That vehicle was styled in part by former Ford Australia designer Paul Gibson, who now heads up Ford’s Asia-Pacific design centre.

Presenting strong visual links with Ford’s bigger F-Series – America’s top-selling pickup for the past 29 years – the new Ranger/Courier brings the sort of distinctive styling and imposing dimensions Ford needs to compete with the likes of Rodeo, HiLux, Navara and Triton.

27 center imageCommodore and Falcon ute vie for the lion’s share of Australia’s 4x2 Pickup Cab-chassis market segment, with Courier’s popularity waning behind that of the new HiLux, the three-year-old Rodeo, the evergreen Triton and even its Mazda Bravo twin.

Last year Courier claimed just 4.5 per cent of the two-wheel drive ute market with 3551 sales.

Courier fared much better in 4x4 guise, however, attracting 4053 sales and 6.5 per cent of the Pickup Cab-chassis 4x4 segment, to rank behind HiLux, Rodeo, Navara, LandCruiser and Triton.

"The light truck market is one of the hottest segments in Australia and this new model will ensure Ford remains at the forefront of this important market," said Ford Australia president Tom Gorman in a release issued last Wednesday.

"While the Australian Courier will have noteworthy differences to the model revealed, the overall line-up has been redesigned to provide excellent engine performance, and interior refinement and passenger comfort, while retaining the superb functional capabilities Ford customers have come to expect," he said.

According to Ford, two new 16-valve DOHC turbo-diesel fours (a 2.5-litre and a more powerful 3.0-litre) will significantly improve Courier’s towing capacity, which will be rated at up to 3000kg.

Both Duratorq TDCi engines feature new-generation high-pressure Bosch common-rail fuel-injection and a variable geometry turbocharger to combine best-in-class torque outputs with low fuel consumption.

The 2.5 delivers around 107kW and 330Nm of torque from just 1800rpm – yet is claimed to consume 22 per cent less fuel than Courier’s current 2.5-litre WLT diesel engine.

An all-new 3.0-litre version delivers around 116kW and 380Nm and is also mated to a five-speed manual transmission. There is no mention of an auto.

Of course, Ford makes much of the Ranger’s muscular new look, which comes courtesy of a 60mm-higher waistline, bold wheelarch flares and a distinctive three-bar grille design that’s integrated with a bulging bonnet.

A stylish, sedan-like interior contrasts with the Ranger’s "tough truck" exterior and features a three-cluster instrument panel, a bright chrome centre console housing an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system, ergonomically designed seats and the usual array of storage locations - including an 8.1-litre glovebox, five cupholders and an industry-first work tray that pulls out from the instrument panel.

Ford says the new Ranger’s more rigid ladder frame chassis improves handling, while tougher and more durable suspension is claimed to improve ride quality.

Ground clearance gains have also been made and Ford says Ranger’s steering has been "optimised for easy handling at low speeds and firmer steering at highway cruising speeds".

While Ford Australia was less bold, the FoMoCo press release says Ranger aims to set new standards for a one-tonne ute in terms of engine performance, fuel economy, passenger comfort, safety features, drivability, towing capacity and affordability.

Standard anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), twin front airbags and outboard seatbelt pretensioners will be complimented by optional side airbags – a segment first.

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